Short History of the St. Augustine Easter Parade

  • easter-parade-retouched2This year marks the 53rd Annual Easter Parade in St. Augustine. This popular hometown parade features pirates, soldiers, horses and carriages, and the “royal trio” from 17th-century Spain, all of which you might expect in a city with over 450 years of history.

    Residents of the city are familiar with the yearly festivities, but many may wonder how the parade came about, or who are those people in the fancy Renaissance style clothes?

    The Easter Festival first started around 1902 with various events and festivities. In the early 1950s St. Augustine was faced with a drop in tourism during the first part of the year. In order to bring more visitors to town, the City of St. Augustine asked Eleanor Barnes, a local genealogist, to help bring historical significance to the Easter festival and parade.

    Mrs. Barnes traveled to Spain to do some historical research on the Minorcan population in St. Augustine and its ties to the royalty. Her research led her to the Castillo de San Marcos, and the amazing woman who commissioned it - Queen Marianna of Spain.

    photoeaster2The rulers of Spain in 1672, including Queen Marianna, are important because of their early involvement in the city. Funding the construction of the Castillo played an important role in preserving the city. For many, the fort is considered to be a contributing factor to the city's survival throughout history. In order to honor and pay tribute to the Queen and the royal family responsible for it, including King Carlos and Princess Margarita Maria, the city of St. Augustine decided to create their own royal trio.

    This trio consists of residents with ties to the Minorcans or the early Spanish in St. Augustine. There's a woman aged 35-40 to portray Queen Marianna, a boy 11-14 to play King Juan Carlos, and a girl 15-20 to play Princess Margarita Maria. The Royal Trio is crowned early in the year right before spring. They preside over major events in the city, with their biggest appearance being in the Easter parade. The Royal Trio represents the city of St. Augustine throughout the country, attending festivals, parades, and events in other U.S. cities.

    Royal Trio of 2017:royaltrio2013

    Queen Marianna - Shannon Nanney

    King Juan Carlos - Xavier Taylor

    Princess Margarita Maria - Sophie Tilton

    It's considered an honor and a privilege to serve in the Royal Trio, and it's a tradition that has now existed since the first trio was chosen for the Easter Festival in 1959, with a new trio being chosen every year. The City of St. Augustine is credited with the Easter Festival, but it is contribution of Eleanor Barnes and the Royal Trio  that the parade brings around 20,000 visitors to St. Augustine each spring.

    The Easter Parade continues to grow in popularity, and has been a major source of recognition and revenue for our city. It is run completely by volunteers, so if you're interested in helping to keep this tradition alive, consider giving some of your time to the Easter Festival Committee by contacting them at or call (904) 671-4362.

    If you're a visitor, don't be surprised if you see the royal family in full dress at Palm Sunday Mass at the Cathedral, at the Blessing of the Fleet, in the Plaza de la Constitucion on Easter, or riding in the parade. Just wave and smile because you're in the presence of St. Augustine royalty.

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    Click here for more info on the Easter Parade in our Calendar of Events.

Sunday, April 7, 2013 by St. Augustine Today

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